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Thread: A good yarn about an inspirational Aussie.

  1. #1
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    A good yarn about an inspirational Aussie.

    From the Westprint Friday Five, by John Deckert.

    Unsung Heroes - Bill Lennon
    By John Deckert. From the Westprint Archives.
    Bill was a bushman of the ‘old school’. He learned his skills by either living or dying on the job. He lived to be almost 100 so that probably proves he learned his skills well.
    Bill was born at Farina in northern South Australia and moved with his family to Millers Creek station, about mid-way between Roxby Downs and Coober Pedy, when he was seven. Three years later he started work with two other boys, pulling water for the cattle. They used camels to pull water from Watchie Well; thirty gallons (140 litres) every three minutes. Bill did that for two years.


    Bill’s family was very poor, and he didn’t get to school. He claimed the closest he ever got to a school was when he went past one droving a mob of cattle. Bill became an excellent stockman and horseman and as cars and trucks came into the bush he taught himself to be a bush mechanic. He also learned other mechanical skills such as windmill and bore maintenance, servicing of shearing gear and repairs to power-plants for generators and pumps.

    At one time Bill tried his hand at cutting posts for the dog fence. He and a helper would cut 200 posts, load them on a truck, cart them 16 miles (25 kilometres) and lay them along the line. Some had to be carried 400 - 500 metres over sand hills to the line because the truck could not drive over the sand. All in a day’s work.


    An opportunity of a job at Oodnadatta eventually became a major turning-point in Bill’s life. Frank Wilkinson ran the general store and had a mail contract and cartage business. Bill eventually took over the mail run and about the same time got married. At that time, his mail run was classed as one of the longest in the world. Five hundred miles (800 kilometres) of lonely bush tracks, no radio or telephone to tell his wife where he was, just the certain knowledge that he was a good mechanic and excellent bushman. His run normally took two weeks, but he would often be away for three due to wet weather or serious breakdown. It was often said, by those who knew, that Bill did the same work as Tom Kruse, but Bill didn’t have a movie made about him.



    Bill’s wife, Billy, was a Nursing Sister who had arrived in Oodnadatta in 1946. Although Billy was born at Gilgandra, she spent much of her youth on a property at Woorak near Nhill in Western Victoria. During WWII Billy trained as a nurse specialising in midwifery. She joined the Australian Inland Mission and was posted to Oodnadatta. Billy married Bill in 1948, toward the end of her two-year term. Although Billy became redundant in a technical sense she assisted at the hospital during times of stress; a voluntary service she provided to the community of Oodnadatta for the next 23 years.

    During their time in Oodnadatta the Lennon’s also acquired a butcher’s shop and a garage. Eventually Bill sold the mail run and haulage business and the butcher’s shop so that he could concentrate on running the garage. In his spare time, he repaired saddles and made whips and belts. When things became really slack he would ‘go bush’ with his rifle culling feral animals to pay the bills.


    When it came time to retire Bill and Billy moved to Adelaide, but Bill did not like the city, so he took up a job with Kidman and Co. as a travelling mechanic. His job was to maintain and repair all types of mechanical equipment on the many Kidman stations. He would drive from Adelaide to the Gulf of Carpentaria, calling at numerous stations, doing all sorts of work and generally loving it. Bill continued this work for 10 years before moving to Nhill in Western Victoria.

    The contribution by Bill and Billy Lennon to the people of the Outback was recognised in 1998 when they were both acknowledged as Unsung Heroes of the Outback by the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame. What more can any person wish for than to live a long and full life, be acknowledged by their peers and leave this earthly life peacefully? John Deckert
    halfbacks were invented to stop prop forwards taking over the world.

    Ladies, if a man says he will fix it, he will. There is no need to remind him every 6 months about it.

  2. #2
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    And a good book [ for sale] about another one, from the same source.

    Francis Birtles Warren Brown - Westprint
    halfbacks were invented to stop prop forwards taking over the world.

    Ladies, if a man says he will fix it, he will. There is no need to remind him every 6 months about it.

  3. #3
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    An interesting yarn from the Friday Five. Heard of Perambulator Biddy, Menindee Mary, and Portia of Pooncarrie.? At the moment I'm reading Pack horse and Waterhole, by Gordon Buchanan. With the first overlanders to the Kimberleys, a really great read.

    Perambulator Biddy, Menindee Mary and Portia of Pooncarie.
    Recently I found the above names listed on the trivia section of a very old matchbox where they were listed as famous female swaggies. Names like those above deserve further investigation, however I haven’t been able to find anything. The article below, an interview with author George Farwell mentions two of the names but only in passing. I’m passing this one over to you, FF Super Sleuths. Let us know what you find. Jo.


    Sydney Morning Herald, 1961
    .

    They don’t come any tougher than Cowboy Collins. One day before the last war he was mustering on Elsey Station when he tried to run down a scrub bull. He was tossed off his horse by the bull's horns. He scrambled up a tree but slipped and was tossed again. His stomach was gashed open and several muscles pierced. He lay on the ground for a long while, bleeding severely. But telling the story later he said:
    "After a couple of hours there told myself, 'Look, you're not going to die yet.' "Sew me up" "I reckoned I might still get up and pass out nearer home. "So, I got one of the blacks to sew me up. Told him to pull some hair from his horse's tail. I told him boil the hair, thread It through a needle, and do a stitching Job. "Then I got on my horse. But I'd only ridden seven miles when the stitches burst. Next morning, I got him to sew me up again, and away we went" This story, among a score of legends, is recalled by Australian author George Farwell in his book "Vanishing Australians."


    "There will probably be a few of them around getting up in years, mostly, their flesh tanned as saddle leather, their sparing speech and wind-bitten features a product of the stock route's roofless solitude." They still talk about Walter Rose. Fifty years ago, he rode 4,300 miles from Richmond, Queensland, to the Kimberleys and back to bring 4,069 head of cattle to the Eastern States. There was Jack Watson, taken by a crocodile when swimming bullocks across a Gulf Country river. There were characters like Boomerang Brady, "his bow-shaped legs fashioned by a life in the saddle."

    Mr Farwell once asked a drover: "What kind of a cook's the cook?" "Just," was the reply. Mr Farwell comments: "He had expressed an opinion on the whole uncertain race of outback cooks. No one expects them to be good. Why should they be? "When the weather's hot everyone curses the cook. If it happens to be cold, or wet or windy, the cook gets the blame for not serving up stews or pikelets like mother used to make." Mr Farwell records that few cooks in the back country are female. "Women are generally regarded as cranky, a nuisance, and disturbing to men's peace of mind.

    Life was tough for the outback prospector and in most cases, strikes were made by accident rather than design. For instance, there was the case of Charlie Nickel west of Broken Hill. 'He was bushed one night and made a dry camp beside a rocky hill. Almost all his money was gone, and he had no water or tucker. The next morning be woke up stiff and half frozen. Cursing the hard rock he had used as a bed, he gave it a mighty blow with his miner's pick. The rock shattered to fragments. Inside were rich silver chlorides. It was the start of the Maybell mine and from it, Charlie went on to earn £100,000.


    The Australian stockman, writes Mr Farwell, seems a pretty dull character beside his American counterpart the Hollywood cowboy. He never knew them to carry guns, except during the last war. and thereby hangs a tale. Just before the wet season of 1941, Army Intelligence reports warned that the Japanese were planning to invade Australia and that the deserted Gulf country was a very likely place. Around the Gulf, cattlemen were asked to Join the Volunteer Defence - Corps and were issued with tommy guns, Bren guns and rifles. So, these untrained and independent-minded stockmen became their country's first line of defence. But the Army then began to be afraid that high-powered weapons might be dangerous in the hands of raw recruits and sent a captain to give them the rudiments of training. He was shocked by their appearance and they just seemed to have no discipline at all. The assembled ringers on the homestead veranda made a curious picture. Some had Army boots, while others wore elastic sides. There were more in 10-gallon hats than Digger hats. When the station manager was ordered to parade his men, he pointed out that it was not quite possible at the time because "the Army's never issued us with any strides."


    George Farwell remembers a stockman he met near Guy Fawkes, in the New England Ranges. He knew, him only as Mad Mick. " His answers were confined to a few disconnected monosyllables. But he was a resourceful man. He had worn out his last pair of boots, so he fashioned new ones out of discarded inner tubes; he used chips of wood for buttons on his threadbare Jacket, securing them with looped string. He 'was reading a year-old 'newspaper through glasses made of a wire frame found on a rubbish dump and lenses of different strength bought for sixpence each”. And there were swag women, too. Two of the best known were Menindee Mary and the Portia of Pooncarie


    halfbacks were invented to stop prop forwards taking over the world.

    Ladies, if a man says he will fix it, he will. There is no need to remind him every 6 months about it.

  4. #4
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    There are many stories of that era which are disappearing. My grand father was a drover in the Northern Territory during the twenties and thirties. Moving stock overland to the south. The only knowledge of this is a story or 2 from my Grand Mother and a book about droving which had maps in the covers into which he had drawn in the routes he had been on. The book I was not able to grab from the estate. Stories were second hand as he had died when I was about 5.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3toes View Post
    There are many stories of that era which are disappearing. My grand father was a drover in the Northern Territory during the twenties and thirties. Moving stock overland to the south. The only knowledge of this is a story or 2 from my Grand Mother and a book about droving which had maps in the covers into which he had drawn in the routes he had been on. The book I was not able to grab from the estate. Stories were second hand as he had died when I was about 5.
    A lot of the old blokes didn't talk about their lives, and so a large part of our history is vanishing. Thankfully there are some websites dedicated to the early days, Project Gutenberg is a good one from South Australia. Here is a story from early days in North Queensland, but you can navigate the system to find some gems from other places and times. My own Father left home at 15 and learned how to handle cattle from the men who drove them from the Channel Country to NSW, before WW2. There wasn't much he didn't know about horses, and cattle. He didn't talk about it, unless you got him at the right moment.

    Early days in North Queensland.

    Early Days in North Queensland
    halfbacks were invented to stop prop forwards taking over the world.

    Ladies, if a man says he will fix it, he will. There is no need to remind him every 6 months about it.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3toes View Post
    There are many stories of that era which are disappearing. My grand father was a drover in the Northern Territory during the twenties and thirties. Moving stock overland to the south. The only knowledge of this is a story or 2 from my Grand Mother and a book about droving which had maps in the covers into which he had drawn in the routes he had been on. The book I was not able to grab from the estate. Stories were second hand as he had died when I was about 5.

    You may find this interesting. The Victoria River District "Doomsday" book

    https://www.territorystories.nt.gov....day_Book_0.pdf
    halfbacks were invented to stop prop forwards taking over the world.

    Ladies, if a man says he will fix it, he will. There is no need to remind him every 6 months about it.

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